Our first introduction to the Pull-Away happened at the Agriculture Museum at Micke Grove in Lodi, California, where there is a tin one on display. Donald saw that it was made in Stockton, where he had been born. Donald has always been attracted to local history, and fell in love with this little tracklayer. We saw Floyd Percival's Pull-Away at the California State Fair. He saw one or two others and wanted one for his own.
We found ours by word of mouth at a show. Someone told us that he had seen one in northern California. Donald was beside himself when we got word that one was for sale by Marvin Flowers in Janesville, California, between Susanville, California, and Reno, Nevada. We called right away and made arrangements to go for a 51/2 hour ride to see it. When he saw it, he was ecstatic. It was in great shape, in spite of being buried in weeds that nearly covered it. It was not 'frozen,' and it would roll backwards. It was complete and had a dozer blade attached to it. The man put it into our van with the bucket of a tractor. It was beautiful to see it out of the weeds. Donald's smile was more than worth the $100 we paid for it, and the long journey to and from Janesville.
It seemed to be an easy task getting the tractor loaded into the van. It was quite a large chore getting it out of the van and onto the ground. The tracks were frozen at the time and would not pull in either direction. It had to be man-handled for more than an hour to get it out of the van. The tracks stayed frozen for quite a while, months. The tracks finally did loosen up after dragging it around the yard and at the shows with another tractor. Then it could be driven on its own. It would go, but stopping it was another story. When the clutch warms up, it won't disengage and it just keeps on running. Donald tried stopping it one day by digging his heels into the ground and all he accomplished was digging two little trenches about 12 feet long in our yard. He later learned to run it up against the big tree in the middle of our yard to get it stopped. Even then, it did not stop, it just kept on running and digging in until it bottomed out, and the tracks were still going. And this was all at an idle. Running it at the shows was fun. He had to make sure there was plenty of room to run and then to stop. We have a dozer blade on it. Our neighbor had a load of road gravel delivered next door; it was four feet high, twice as high as our little Pull-Away. Donald wanted to see if he could kill the engine under a heavy load, so he ran it up against the pile of rock, but the little machine just pushed through the pile and kept on going. No load was found to be big enough, or heavy enough to stop it or kill the engine. It just keeps on going or buries itself. That little engine just didn't die. We can see why the farmers called it a 'work horse.'
Ours has a plate on the top of the front, above the nameplate. The little plate has the number 108 on it. During its lifetime, our Pull-Away traveled from Stockton to Lodi (eight miles north of here), to Sacramento (50 miles north of here), to Chester (200 miles north of here), to Susanville (250 miles north of here) and then to Janesville. We bought it and brought it back through Susanville, Sacramento, Lodi, then to Stockton. It seems to have made a complete round trip. It is not restored yet, we are having too much fun with it like it is.
We have both been members of the Early Day Gas Engine & Tractor Association since November 1993. We are currently members of Branches #13 and #30. This is a national organization with almost 100 branches, and its members are devoted to the collection and preservation of historical items, mainly gas engines and tractors. However, there are many other items being preserved and displayed at our shows. We like to show what they can do as well as what they are We get all the information that we can, and we compile it and share the information with anyone that wants it.
We received a copy of a letter from the University of California-Davis, that W. H. Capps wrote on April 21, 1951 to Mr. F. Hal Higgins in Oakland. (There is now an 'agricultural research' library at U.C. Davis, named after Mr. Higgins.) Mr. Capps sent two illustrative pamphlets about the Pull-Away and explained that their other products were generally of a specialized nature with limited unit volume, and that they had never had occasion to use advertising literature on anything else. F. Hal Higgins traveled the Valley selling small firms on the virtues of his advertising expertise. He probably knew more people and history in the San Joaquin Valley farm equipment business than anyone else. It is fitting that they named a library after him.
We have been in contact with the last living president of Capps Brothers. We have also been in contact with the secretary of Capps Brothers, and a salesman from Holt Bros. We have compiled a history of the Pull-Away from information from these people and what we have seen by comparing all the tractors that we have located.
Of the 20 tractors we know of, eight of them belong to members of the club. Floyd takes his, every year, to the California State Fair. He has a cultivator tool on it. He changed the Briggs engine on it so it would run better for the shows. (This is the one that got away and took out three display 'fences' and one piece of equipment before they got it stopped. One of Floyd's boys was running it and was not used to it. It just ran off from him.)
These are the towns where we have located Pull-Aways: three in Stockton, three in Lodi, two in Ripon, and one each in Wallace, Davis, Brentwood, Woodland, Victor, Stevenson, Sacramento, Wilton, Lathrop, Atherton, and Redlands, all in California. Another is in Marble Falls, Texas. We get excited every time we discover where one of these tractors is located. We are a self-appointed registry for them. We know where 20 or so of them are.
We would be extremely interested in knowing the whereabouts of any others that anybody might find. We are a registry for the Pull-Away. We've searched out and photographed every one we could, and gave each of the owners brochures. We will gladly share this material with any other owners that we find.